The new facilities are part of a major expansion for Voorhees, N.J.-based NeurAbilities, which recently opened two Pennsylvania treatment centers, in King of Prussia and Bala Cynwyd. Each site also offers in-home services within a 30-mile radius.
The new treatment centers will complement NeurAbilities’ three diagnostic centers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, which focus on medical and neuropsychological evaluations and treatment planning. The diagnostic hubs – in Voorhees and Wall Township, N.J., and in a separate King of Prussia facility – are also increasing their patient capacity.
“Many New Jersey children are on wait lists for both diagnostic evaluations and treatment. Our expansion will help fill this gap, so more children and families can receive the services and supports they deserve,” said Kathleen Stengel, BCBA, chief executive officer of NeurAbilities Healthcare.
The additions will bring NeurAbilities’ total number of sites to seven, with more New Jersey and Pennsylvania treatment centers planned for 2021. The organization is hiring about 50 clinical and administrative staff members in New Jersey this year, with a total of 125 new hires planned through 2020.
With autism rates rising, the expansion will help meet a growing need. New Jersey families are especially affected, with one in 32 children diagnosed with autism. Nationally, the condition occurs in about one in 54 children.
Moreover, the COVID-19 lockdown has negatively affected many youth with autism. Some 63% of families of children with autism report severe disruptions in services and therapies. Of those families, 95% report an adverse impact on their child’s behavior, and 82% say the disruptions have harmed their child’s mental and emotional health, according to a recent study. (Read more about the study here.)
“Many families are struggling with behavioral issues as a result of these disruptions. Children with autism can fall behind in their learning and even regress,” Stengel noted. “As a result, families need our services now more than ever.”
NeurAbilities also offers a unique advantage over other area providers. It is the only organization in the region that offers a full range of autism services – including diagnostic evaluations, counseling, and ABA (applied behavior analysis) treatment – from one coordinated source.
“With our new facilities, we can ease the enormous burden on families by providing front-to-back services,” said Mark Mintz, MD, chief medical officer and founder of NeurAbilities.
In fact, the respected neurologist launched the organization – formerly called CNNH NeuroHealth – in 2005 to address gaps in care for people with special needs.
The new centers are designed for children with autism, primarily from the ages of 14 months to 15 years, but also older if appropriate. They will include:
• Special lighting and window treatments that address sensory sensitivities.
• An indoor playground to help children learn a wide range of skills, including communication and socialization.
• Individual and group treatment rooms.
• Enhanced COVID-19 safety protocols, including daily staff screenings, masks required for all staff and parents, gloves for all staff, and sanitization of equipment between patients.
Each new facility will have a child-friendly theme. The Freehold site, at 20 Gibson Place (near Route 33 and West Main Street), will feature a beach motif. The Cherry Hill center, at 1800 Chapel Avenue, will sport a boardwalk design.
“We teach children functional skills, and then help them apply their skills at home. We also teach parents and other caregivers how to work with their child,” Stengel explained. “This consistency enhances children’s learning and development.”
Many people on the autism spectrum also have one or more additional diagnoses, which may be developmental, behavioral, neurologic, and/or genetic.
“NeurAbilities can address all of these issues with our team of physicians and therapists,” said Stengel.
This model helps families avoid the challenges of uncoordinated care, added Dr. Mintz. “When services are fragmented, that can lead to inaccurate diagnoses, less effective care, more hospitalizations, and over-medication,” he explained.
NeurAbilities provides medically necessary ABA, as well as family training, at its treatment centers and in families’ homes across South and Central New Jersey, and in six Pennsylvania counties: Montgomery, Philadelphia, Bucks, Delaware, Lehigh, and Northampton. And it offers virtual social-skills classes for older children, with a course for middle-schoolers running now through Nov. 27.
In New Jersey, the organization is in-network with major medical and behavioral-health insurance providers. In Pennsylvania, NeurAbilities is a licensed, intensive behavioral health services (IBHS) provider. Families enrolled in Medicaid through Magellan Behavioral Health of Pennsylvania will pay no out-of-pocket fees for ABA services from NeurAbilities, as these services are fully covered by that program.
As part of its growth, NeurAbilities is hiring for a variety of positions, including Board-Certified Behavior Analysts and registered behavior technicians.
“Ultimately, it’s about giving hope to people and families. Hope for a better, healthier future for each person in our care,” said Stengel. “We even named the figure in our logo ‘Hope,’ because that concept is central to everything we do.”